Plan to recruit, retain ECEs in Cochrane District in the works

A plan to recruit and retain early childhood educators (ECEs) in the Cochrane District in the works, says the director of children’s services.

During a presentation at the Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board on Thursday (Oct. 19), Shannon Costello, director of children’s services, said as of Jan. 1, 2023, 113 educators were needed for licensed capacity.

At that time, 63 per cent of the workforce was unqualified educators (non-registered ECEs), Costello said.

Costello is currently working on the department's five-year plan, part of which will focus on recruitment and retention.

“And will focus on identifying barriers, enhancing professional development, fostering collaborations, and creating a supportive environment for educators and service providers,” Costello said.

“From our focus group, we have already actioned some items that have been identified as barriers, such as the Northern College Play Lab. It was a creation from learning that ECEs were having difficulty communicating with parents, so this was put into practice while they're in school.”

Costello said they also have a 10-module orientation for unqualified staff to get a better understanding of what they should be doing.

“Our program consultant model is changing direction towards more job coaching and mentoring and unqualified staff are now participating in post-secondary education to work towards their ECE diploma so we have actioned those items,” she said.

"We're also creating a landing page of information on our website to provide further information about the field and many different routes that you can take to become an ECE which comes along with a social media video campaign that directs to our website that we created using our one-time workforce funding from the first quarter of 2023.”

Black River-Matheson mayor Doug Bender said to his knowledge, there are no childcare spaces in his region. As a result, he said he’s going to work with the CAO so they can try to move money around.

“So that we can actually pay people what they’re worth and we can hire them,” he said.

Costello said there’s a plan in the next five years to acquire licensed spaces in Matheson as well as Smooth Rock Falls.

“We're in the midst of still trying to get that sorted. We have applied with the French catholic school board for capital dollars in Smooth Rock Falls and have had discussions with DSB1 about converting space at Joseph H. Kennedy. However, because there's an application time, they haven't got back to agreeing to that yet because there's quite a bit of work to make that happen,” she said.

Costello said educators, early years service providers, and a working group of educators will actively participate in the planning process.

Stakeholders such as school boards, post-secondary institutions, economic development corporations and community members will also be consulted and included in the plan’s implementation.

Further information will be presented to the board in the coming months.

Marissa Lentz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,